Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, on Monday 2 December listed Biafra among African countries during his address at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new University of Transportation in Daura, Katsina State of Nigeria.
Mr. Amaechi was defending the citing of the university in Daura, the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari – a northern Muslim, who has often been criticized for nepotism by political leaders from other parts of the country.
The Transport Minister said, “Daura is in Nigeria, it is not in any other part of the world. It is not in Niger Republic. It is not in Biafra. It is not in Mali. It is in Nigeria. So, what is wrong in citing a University of Transportation in Daura?”, he asked.
”I have no regret citing this university where I have cited it. It is not because I want to get any gain,” he added.
President Buhari and several of his top government functionaries attending the event listened as the minister spoke.
Amaechi, himself an ethnic Igbo from the defunct Biafra territory, may have taken his listeners by storm when he listed Biafra among other West African sovereign countries in buttressing his point. Biafra was the southeastern bloc of Nigeria which lost a bloody war of liberation in the late 1960’s with over 3 million casualties. Nigeria’s war with Biafra remains a sore point in the country’s political history and a topic not taught in schools and which public officials often refrain from discussing.
In recent years however, agitation for re-validation of Biafra has resurfaced led by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and other pro-Biafran groups.
As the ground-breaking ceremony was taking place in Katsina, clashes between members of IPOB and the police flared up in the Southeastern town of Oraifite in Anambra State with at least 4 persons reportedly killed and several buildings torched, in a still developing story.
Amaechi further defended the establishment of the university, allaying fears expressed by some that the new University of Transportation will “kill” the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu, Delta State, in southeastern Nigeria.
“What is the relationship between the Maritime University and the Transport university? Nothing“, he wondered.
The university – adjudged the first transport university in Africa, will cost about N18 billion according to information on the website of the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC).
The university project is being presented as a negotiated corporate social responsibility (CSR) investment of the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), the Chinese construction giant which currently enjoys massive construction contracts with the Nigerian government.
During his own speech, President Buhari praised the establishment of the school saying it will enhance employment opportunities and supplement the transport sector’s ”dire need of new thinking, skills and investment”.
“The project is part of the ongoing effort of the federal government towards promotion and development of indigenous capacity through technology acquisition and knowledge transfer to effectively maintain and operate numerous railway infrastructure,’’ he said.
“When established, the university would among other things pave way for (the) domestication of railway engineering and general transportation sciences in Nigeria thereby bridging the technology and skill gap in the railway and ultimately transportation sector.’’
Approval for the university was granted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) last year.
President Buhari traveled to his home state for a five-day official visit to commission several projects including the Kwanar Gwante (Shargalle Road), which is off Kano-Daura Road.
He returned to the capital city of Abuja on Tuesday 3 December.
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